Month: June 2019 (Page 1 of 2)

Friday Vid

Just a video this week.

“Stay With Me” – Hatchie. I still hate the move for new music to drop on Fridays instead of Tuesdays. It seems like I can never get through all the new albums I want to listen to on Friday, the weekend keeps me from spending much time with new albums, and then on Monday I’m trying to reset and catch up. On the weeks when there are multiple new albums I want to sample, it always seems like one slips through and I’m scrambling to review it the following week.

Such was the case this week, when Hatchie’s debut album Keepsake dropped. She was in the honorable mention section of my favorite songs of 2018 with “Sugar & Spice,” off her fine debut EP. But the early singles from her first full length didn’t hit me as hard. Over repeated listens I eventually enjoyed them, but it seemed like a step back from the songs on that EP. So I slid her album down in the list of importance last week, spending more time with the Prince Originals disk. In fact, I kind of forgot about Hatchie until I saw several Tweets and posts over the weekend about how great her album was.

So I gave it a listen Monday afternoon while doing some cleaning around the house and…HOLY SHIT! I know I’m still in that initial window where it is new and shiny, but if I had to pick an album of the year right now, Keepsake would be it. It is an utterly gorgeous, totally fantastic collection of music. Almost every song is really, really good, and a handful are flat out great. There are so many good songs, in fact, that it has been hard to isolate one as my favorite.

I share this one just because it is the one of those favorites with a video. You get most of the experience here: dance-influenced indie pop. This song lacks the sound of ‘90s bands like The Cocteau Twins and The Sundays that is prevalent on so many of the other tracks. But you do hear some of the Robyn-adjacent sound that Hatchie builds into most of her music. It is a shockingly mature collection from a woman who is just 26. Oh, and she’s Australian, so add her to the list of Aussie acts that I love these days. You could really tell me that I could listen to nothing but Australian artists and I would be perfectly content.

Don’t Stop the Music

Here is a pretty fascinating article that has gotten a lot of attention over the past week or so.

Jody Rosen writes about the massive fire in 2008 that wiped out a storage facility that housed thousands and thousands of original sound recordings. News just broke overnight that a huge swath of big artists not mentioned in the article also lost their original masters.

There’s no doubting it is an immeasurable loss. But as I read I also wondered if the loss is still overstated, at least for the artists who are part of the mainstream. Rosen and others argue that the versions we listen to on Spotify, Apple Music, etc are already copies of copies of copies, and when the next format change arrives they will get copied yet again, losing a little more data and clarity in the process. But I always scoff at how many regular people can tell the difference in these tiny losses from version to version. And aren’t even flawed copies better than none? Do people in 100 years really need to hear outtakes from Steely Dan sessions in order to have a culturally rich life? Or is listening to a deprecated version of Aja enough to help explain the music of the 1970s to them?

The Day the Music Burned

New Toy

Not sure what I did, but somehow I messed up the site and new posts are not showing up. This was supposed to hit yesterday. Apologies, because it is big news!

Well, I guess it is time to spill the big news of 2019: we put in a pool. It’s a real nice above-ground model that we think adds a lot to the first view you get when you drive onto our property…

I’m kidding. We really did put in a pool, that was no joke. But it is not an above ground one. Although I saw an ad just after we signed the contract with our pool guys that offered an above ground pool package that was normally over $5000 for $999. That’s quite a deal!

Enough jokes. How did we end up with a pool? Now that’s a funny story, too. Sixteen years ago when we were shopping for our first home, S had a strict no water on the property policy. When she worked in the ER as a resident she saw kids who were drowning victims and it really affected her. If we could see water from the house, whether it was a pool, retaining pond, or neighborhood lake, she turned around and walked out.

She obviously got over that some since we owned a lake house for six years. But that’s a little different as the expectation is that everyone is on high alert at a lake, our kids were not toddlers when we bought it, etc.

Anyway, when we moved a year ago we started looking at the amount of land we have and wondering how we could use it. The bulk of our land is in front of our house. We have 200+ feet between our front door and the main street we face. It’s not ideal land, as there is a gully that collects water about 40 feet from the house, with either side of the yard sloping into it. Although we’ve added a few trees, it is also pretty wide-open so whatever you do out there will lack privacy.

Behind the house we have about 70 feet until we hit the property line. Much of that was filled with old apple trees, remnants from a small orchard that originally grew in this area. A pool was the first and obvious choice for that area, but we had that no water policy that got in the way of that.

We had other things to do anyway, like furnish the house, make some upgrades to the interior, etc. so we put the land use ideas on the back burner.

Until late January when S looked at me one night and said, “I think we should look into putting a pool in.”

I looked at her like she was crazy and said, “No.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s expensive, it’s a hassle to maintain, and you’ve never wanted to have water in our yard.”

Solid comeback, I thought.

But she explained how with the girls getting older, it’s harder to keep them from drifting off into their rooms and devices when they are home. We had promised that moving closer to their school friends would give them more chances to entertain, and this would help with that; our home would now be a place where their friends wanted to go to, at least in the summer.

I shook my head and went back to reading or watching basketball or whatever I was doing. S didn’t say anything else.

Because she knew what she had done. She was now in my head. And she knows I don’t like spontaneity but rather want to think things over multiple ways over time before I come to a conclusion. Whether I liked it or not, I started thinking about her arguments in my idle moments.

Sure enough, a couple weeks later, I said to her, “So this pool idea…” We talked it through a little more and soon after I messaged a few friends who had put in pools in recent years to get feedback on their contractors. Within a week or so I had appointments set up with two pool companies plus landscapers to come take a look at our land and talk through ideas.

The first pool quote was the cheaper of the two. That company also couldn’t even think about starting until August at the very earliest. The second company was pricier, but they were scheduling jobs in April. I told that guy to get me something to sign ASAP. He happened to grow up right down the street from us, and when I was ready to give him his deposit check, he sent his dad who still lives there over to collect it. That was a nice touch.

The day before we left for spring break he came back and laid out the location of the pool with twine and spray paint for the city permits. When the girls got home from school that day, they could look out and imagine where it would be.

We broke ground on April 30. Originally he said three weeks for the entire project. We figured there would be at least a week’s worth of delays, but that still had us done by the beginning of the summer. The first few weeks went great, right on schedule. We were on the verge of pouring concrete in mid-May and then the Spring 2019 Deluge hit: constant rains made us lose an entire week. They poured the deck just before we left for San Diego, and our hopes were that when we got home we would arrive to a filled pool that was ready to use.

But it kept raining and they were only able to lay the pool floor base while we were away.

There were more weather delays, a materials SNAFU that caused another week’s delay, but they finally put the liner in and filled the pool last Wednesday. As the final two water trucks arrived, another huge storm moved in. Fortunately it came late enough in the day that the pool was basically done. Thursday they finished putting the cover on and dumped some chemicals into the water. Friday they fired up the pump and heater, gave me the quick, basic tutorial on what to do, and dropped the green flag to use it.

Today landscapers are back for their third time, doing their (hopefully) final day of work. Our yard is a complete mess. Our very narrow street has been a disaster between large trucks with trailers and contractor pickups taking up space and mud, gravel, and construction remnants everywhere. The two houses nearest us have had parts of their yards torn up by all the traffic. I’m sure everyone who lives down the block hates us. It will likely been months before the remainder of our backyard isn’t a big mud pit.

It’s been a pain, there have been numerous annoying moments along the way, we broke our budget (shocking), but we have a pool and the girls seem happy. As I wrap this up I’m sitting on our back porch while M and L swim with friends. That was the goal, which makes all the trouble and expense worth it.

A Change Is Gonna Come

It has been an unsettled time for Catholic schools in Indianapolis. Unfortunately rather than watching other schools deal with a church leadership that is hopelessly out of touch with the times, it is now affecting our family directly.

Cathedral High School announced Sunday that after two years of working with the Archdiocese to resolve a personnel matter, they were caving[1] and choosing to “separate” from a teacher who is in a same-sex marriage. In a letter that went out to all Cathedral families Sunday afternoon, the school board said that the Archbishop threatened to remove Cathedral’s Catholic identity, which would prevent them from celebrating the sacraments, including holding masses on campus, and would also prevent Cathedral from calling itself a Catholic school, which would in turn remove the school’s tax-exempt status.

This came on the heels of Brebeuf, Indianapolis’ Jesuit high school, losing its Catholic identity on Friday as a result of their refusal to fire a gay teacher. Brebeuf is in a slightly different position as they are run by the Jesuits rather than the Archdiocese. The Jesuit leadership has offered vocal, public support of the Brebeuf board and questioned the Archdiocese’s decision.

This all began last fall when Roncalli, Indy’s south side Catholic high school, placed two school counselors on administrative leave until they renounced their same-sex marriages. The moves were made on orders of the Indy Archdiocese.

We also heard a rumor this weekend – at this point totally unconfirmed by anyone who would know for sure – that a teacher at St. P’s will not be returning next year because he is in a same-sex marriage. I fear a little for our main priest, who has voiced support for gay causes.

Clearly the Indianapolis Archbishop is on a mission.

I always struggle with how to handle issues like this. I have no problem criticizing many policies of the Catholic Church, or any church for that matter. But I do have a hard time understanding where the lines for my criticism fall. We pay tuition at two Catholic schools and send a monthly payment to a church in the archdiocese, I volunteer in the school and am a member of the athletic committee, so I am part of the community. But since I am not Catholic, I wonder what right I have to criticize the stances of an organization I’m not officially a part of.

But in a time when it is increasingly difficult to find people who have the gift for connecting with kids, who are willing to deal with all the shit that comes with being a teacher, who can live on the frankly embarrassing wages teaching offers,[2] it strikes me as counter to the mission of every school, Catholic or otherwise, to run people out of their jobs for the crime of wanting legal acknowledgement of and protection for their love for another human being.

It is more infuriating to see this come in an era when society as a whole is racing toward full equal rights for people of all sexual orientations. In an age where the leader of the Catholic church has stated that the church should accept and love gay people no differently than anyone else. When the American Catholic church has often been ahead of the Vatican in opening up to gay parishioners.

However, it seems that the Indianapolis Archbishop wants to carve out a niche as the man who took a stand against the Church accepting gay marriage. This seems like a decision that will only please conservatives in the church hierarchy who are trying to counter Pope Francis’ liberalization efforts, and people who will be dead in 10–15 years. At the same time it will continue to drive away the younger generation that the Church has been desperate to find ways of bringing back. This feels like a decision that may have seemed like a good idea to a small number of people when it was made, but down the road will look like a monumentally dumb and shortsighted choice that did more harm than good to the organization the Archbishop was trying to “protect.”

I do see some good in this, though. There has been an overwhelming response to the decision. My Facebook feed is filled almost exclusively with outrage at what Cathedral and the Archdiocese have done. Different people are laying blame in different ways, but the common message is that this was a horrible decision that will hurt Cathedral and its students. A few families who have written a lot of exceptionally large checks to Cathedral and churches within the Archdiocese over the years have come out strongly against the decision. Ultimately that is what could move the needle, if some of those funds that have only been promised but not yet delivered get placed in hold until there is a reconsideration.

One current teacher at Cathedral posted that she is divorced and remarried without getting an annulment from the church, which puts her in violation of the same morals clause in her contract the gay employees are charged with violating. She closed her post with “#FIREMETOO.” I can’t imagine how much courage it took to post something like that. There have to be dozens and dozens of teachers in her same situation across Archdiocese schools that will not be targeted by the Archbishop simply because they are married to someone of the opposite sex.

I was most pleased by how our girls responded. We got the email after dropping C off at camp, so it was just M and L with us. They both immediately expressed their confusion and anger. “That’s so stupid! It doesn’t make any sense! The only reason they should ever fire a teacher is if they are a bad teacher or hurt someone!” We’ve spent their entire lives teaching them not to judge people because of how they look, what language they speak, their culture, or who they love. When forced to confront the issue directly, it’s heartening to know that they can put those lessons into practice immediately.

I also think the vast majority of the Cathedral faculty support their colleague and believe this decision is wrong. I am confident that they will teach our daughters values that are more consistent with our world view than the Archbishop’s retrograde philosophy. It is that knowledge that allows me to remain comfortable with sending our girls there.

Despite those glimmers, it is a sad and frustrating moment. In general I think society is headed in the right direction, toward the time when everyone who pays taxes receives the same rights and protections under the law. There are still far too many extremely powerful organizations, though, that are dragging their feet and refusing to join the majority view that isolating and hating people is wrong. That this is occurring in the sphere of secondary education, where Catholic high schools pride themselves on having an advantage over public institutions in how they challenge young adults to broaden their perspectives, learn and practice empathy, and live moral lives where all God’s children are treated with love and respect is particularly disheartening.

  1. My term, not theirs.  ↩
  2. I had a conversation with a teacher at a Catholic school this past winter in which I learned how much this teacher made. It almost made me want to cry at how little this person, who has tons of education and experience, clears each year. Especially when you factor in all the bullshit that comes with dealing with kids all day.  ↩

Friday Playlist

Happy Summer Solstice! 

“Cuddly Toy” – Roachford. I know I’ve written about this song at least a couple times over the past 16 years. How I bought the cassette single right before I graduated from high school 30 – THIRTY!!! – years ago and listened to it non-stop that week. And how when I got to college someone “borrowed” it and I never saw it again. Then, years later when file sharing and music downloading arrived I tried to find the song but could never remember the name of the artist until I heard it randomly sometime about 10 years ago. Anyway, someway or another I was reminded of it this week and made sure to add it into my Spotify library.

“Wishing Well” – Terence Trent D’Arby. I heard this on Sirius this week and started wondering if TTD was the most disappointing artist of the 1980s. This was a monster hit, and deservedly so. In an era where music was all mixed up he found a niche that was all his own. James Brown loomed large over his sound, but he was far from just a new age JB. TTD was, arguably, the most brash artist of the decade, basically telling everyone he was the greatest thing to come along in the entire history of music. There was so much promise on this song and then it all kind of went POOF and he disappeared, never to enjoy the success he saw with this song, let alone do bigger things. Hearing this song, and having those thoughts, got me inspired and I listened to his entire debut album, Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby the other day. It was good. But it also didn’t punch me the way I expected, loaded with tons of “How were these never hits?!?!” songs. Oh well. A single moment in the spotlight is better than none.

“Magic” – The Cars. One of the great summer songs of the 1980s kicked off the greatest summer in the history of pop music.

“Sleep All Summer” – Crooked Fingers. A summer staple on these playlists. Just a wonderful song from a vastly underrated band from the ‘00s.

We Are Living In A Society!

I’m not usually big on complaining about what the younger generation is doing. As times change so do behaviors and accepted norms. I think everyone needs to be flexible and realize what was fine when we were 20 may have totally changed by the time we’re 40, 60, etc. But I heard this story on the local news this morning – while checking to see how many hours of today would be lost to rain – and had to shake my head.

Poll shows many Millennials, Gen Zers aren’t wearing deodorant

For fuck’s sake, people! Basic hygiene is not up for discussion. No one needs to be sending out waves of body odor for the rest of the world to walk through.

I had a roommate for a year in college that refused to wear deodorant because he said it caused Alzheimer’s disease. Fortunately this was in a large house and he was often too busy in architecture studio to come home. But the kid did get a little ripe.

What really pisses me off are the people who come to the gym without taking a whiff of their bodies first. Tuesday morning there was an older woman – Baby Boomer! – at the gym who has absolutely kicking. It was that terrible, haven’t washed for a couple days in the summer smell. And she was sweating her ass off, so the odor kept getting worse and worse. Finally, after I literally had to stifle a gag when I was two stations away from her, I cut my workout short and left. She otherwise seemed like a nice enough lady. And good for her for getting out and trying to stay in shape as she approached 60 (I’m guessing). But, good Lord, did you not notice the odor coming from your pits before you left the house?

It kills me how many stinky people there are at the gym. Do people not understand that whatever aromas are on your body grow proportionately stronger as you increase your body temperature? Sometimes the people who have doused themselves in cologne or perfume are just as bad as the BO folks as they get deep into their workouts.

There should be a simple series of steps before you go to the gym. If you haven’t bathed in awhile, take a wash cloth, put some warm water and soap on it, and give your nooks and crannies a quick wipe. Dry them off and apply deodorant or anti-perspirant. Even if you bathed less than a day ago, go ahead and give your pits a test sniff. If there’s even a hint of something growing in there, a swipe of deodorant will knock that shit down enough not to gross out the people around you.

Easy, peasy. Let’s go, people!

Summer So Far

Here we are on June 19 and I can already say it’s been the strangest summer in some time. Mostly because it really doesn’t feel like summer yet.

The big issue has been the weather. It was a moderately wet spring to begin with, then Mother Nature lost her damn mind in the middle of May. It’s rained something like every 4.5 hours since then. Every time you think the sun is going to come out and things are going to begin to dry out, storm clouds begin piling up on the horizon and racing in. Last weekend Mother Nature cracked her knuckles and really gave us two big middle fingers, dropping over eight inches of rain in several areas near here, while almost the entire area got well over four inches of rain. If you were to try walking in our yard right now, you might lose a foot when it sinks beyond the ankle.

So most days the girls and I have been sitting around doing nothing. I feel kind of bad when S gets home every night and asks the girls what they did that day and they answer, “Nothing.” But we just spent a lot of money in San Diego; I’m sticking to the Internet we’ve already paid for for awhile rather than bowling or trips to the mall.

Another downside to this weather is it has delayed a rather significant landscaping project we have going on. It is a project that was expected to enhance our enjoyment of summer pretty significantly. Howevah…we are currently three weeks behind schedule so the girls and I are just kind of looking out the window, dreaming of the day it will be done so we can start doing what we expected to do this summer. The good news is we have had a dry day so far and one of the biggest, final steps is being knocked out as I type this.

Yeah, I’m being coy. A selected few folks know about the project. If it wraps up in the next 48 hours, as we really hope it does, I’ll break shit down for you next week.

We did have a rather big change to our routine this week. M decided that she wants to try running cross country next year. This was purely a social decision. One of her teachers at St. P’s told the entire eighth grade class that a great way to get settled into high school is to go through summer conditioning for a sport. It would help the kids, the teacher said, meet some of their future classmates and teachers so they didn’t start the first day of the fall semester surrounded by strangers. M’s best friend is running, as are two or three other St. P’s friends, along with a few girls she knows from other middle schools.

Originally she thought about going through summer conditioning with volleyball, which really worried us. The CHS program is very strong, a ton of girls go out, and M has never played club, summer leagues, etc. We realized it might be fun in the summer, but she had zero chance to make the team. We did not want her to get crushed just as her freshman year was starting. Fortunately a couple of her friends came to the same realization, one of them found out that cross country is a no-cut sport and you can talk while you run, so they decided to give it a shot.

I was very curious how this would go. She infamously thought about running cross country in fifth grade and couldn’t make it two blocks on a training run before she quit. She has some speed, but I wondered if she was strong enough both mentally and physically to deal with the training. We’ve been up at 6:00 every morning this week to get her to practice and she’s done just fine. In fact, last night when I asked her what days she wanted to run the rest of the week – summer workouts are 100% voluntary and absences are allowed without question – she told me, with a sheepish smile on her face, that she was really enjoying it. That made me very happy. She’s been lucky to almost always be on good teams, but has never been a great athlete. We know it bothers her that her two sisters are known around school and in friend and family circles as being athletes. I’m glad that she’s trying something new, seems to be doing fine, and has already found enjoyment in it.

The only bummer is that 6:00 alarm. She decided to run with the summer school crew so she can be with her friends.[1] I was hoping she would have wanted to go in the regular session that starts later in the morning. But being with her friends motivates her and adds to the fun, so I’m fine with it. I usually go walk around the track and listen to podcasts while they are running, so it’s not a bad start to the day. Especially since it has been so dreary and cool so far. I’m sure we’ll have some mornings in July when it already feels like 90 and I’ll be as sweaty as she is after my walk.

Off to shake my fist at these clouds that are beginning to build in the southwest sky…

  1. She could not enroll in summer school – which apparently everyone takes now – because of our vacation.  ↩

Reader’s Notebook, 6/18/19

A few books notes for you.

Northland: A 4000-Mile Journey Along America’s Forgotten Border – Porter Fox
Fox travels the border between the United States and Canada from east to west, beginning on the coast of Maine and ending on the beaches of Washington. Along the way he hitches rides with fishermen in Maine and on a cargo barge that travels the Great Lakes. He paddles a canoe through the St. Lawrence river area. He joins a seasoned explorer in the lake country of Minnesota. He drives the vast flat lands that stretch across the Dakotas and Montana. Through his trip he shares stories of the first Europeans to explore and settle the lands, the government workers who marked the border over the decades, and ties those stories to the current state of the lands and people who live on them.

Sabrina – Nick Drnaso
My first graphic novel of the year. I recall one review said that this book literally haunted the reviewer’s dreams, which set a certain expectation for what the book should be.

Drnaso centers his story on the disappearance of a young woman named Sabrina a few blocks from her home, her eventual death, and the impact that has on her boyfriend, the people who attempt to help him, and eventually on the entire country. It morphs into a much broader critique of the state of the world as he looks into conspiracy theories, the way we consume and spread information, and how the individual can get crushed by society.

It is a bleak and unsettling book. It also has some very strange sections that I, honestly, could not figure out. I wasn’t sure what to make of the end of the book. His art has an indistinct style, too, which made it tough at times to know which character was currently at the center of the panel. Or perhaps that was just because I don’t read a lot of graphic novels and if things aren’t very clear I can’t keep up with them.

The Parade – David Eggers
Oh, how I once enjoyed Eggers’ writing. He once offered us some of the most daring and interesting prose of anyone in his generation. He’s used his fame to push worthy causes and help others. However, along the way he lost his fastball and his recent work has come off as lazy and well below the heights of his early work. And yet, when I saw this at the library, I was drawn to it. It certainly helped that it is a rather thin book. “If it sucks, at least it won’t take me very long to get through it,” was my thought. Which ended up being the straight truth, Ruth.

Eggers writes about two contract workers who are sent to a fictional country somewhere in southeastern Europe that is coming out of a long civil war. The men are tasked with laying down the first paved road that connects the country’s southern hinterlands to the capital. Their work, it is promised, will allow the people in what were rebel strongholds the chance to access the bigger, better economy, education, culture, and healthcare of the nation’s capital.

The project lead is a sober, dedicated man who refuses to stray from the protocols placed upon the project. He spends his days piloting a state-of-the-art machine that can lay an asphalt road quicker than any other similar machine. His partner, on the other hand, sees little need for boundaries or regulations. His task is to clear the path in front of the machine of people, large impediments, and solve other mini-crises so that the asphalt can continue to get laid down unimpeded. He is more interested in jetting off on his motorcycle to explore strange areas and interact with the locals.

As you would expect, his journeys lead to trouble of various kinds, the lead is forced to jettison the schedule, which causes him to accept that there is more to life than following instructions. And his partner sees that there is danger in living life without boundaries.

All this leads to one of the most predictable endings I can remember. And, again, it came across as the lazy, easy choice for Eggers. I wondered if I had missed something so I skimmed a few reviews after I finished. One critic called the book’s final paragraph one of the most offensive things she had ever read. I think that’s a little extreme. But it is all the proof that I need that I don’t need to read another Eggers book.

Four Days in July: Tom Watson, the 2009 Open Championship, and a Tournament for the Ages – Jim Huber
I grabbed this – the tale of Tom Watson’s amazing run to nearly winning the 2009 British Open – as a book for our trip to San Diego. I started it the Sunday before we left and ended up blowing through it in about 36 hours.

That’s not to say it is a great book. Rather that it reads pretty quickly and isn’t that lengthy to begin with.

Many of you will remember Huber, who worked for CNN and the Turner networks for years as their resident “essayist.” He was the guy who rolled in for touchy-feely pieces in the midst of other sports coverage. The book reads exactly like an extended one of those essays. It’s schmaltzy and overly-dramatic, but given that it is about a nearly 60-year-old man coming within a shot of winning one of the biggest golf tournaments in the world, the tone fits the subject matter.

While the book focuses on that July weekend, Huber does offer background into both Watson’s life and that of Stewart Cink, who bested him in the playoff. There’s plenty of history of the tournament and how Watson came to be one of the Open’s greatest champions with his dominance there in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Huber’s dissection of Watson’s final hole of regulation, when he made a couple tough choices that both cost him, are deep and do well to show how Watson made the right choices. But I did like how Joe Posnanski handled what happened to Watson on the 72nd hole better than Huber.

US Open with A Dash of NBA Finals Notes

I think I firmly established my old man status by watching approximately 800 hours of golf this weekend. Now, it was the US Open, which is always big. Before we had a lake home and spent most of our June weekends there, I was still watching the Open for hours on Father’s Day weekend. And Topeka, Kansas’ own Gary Woodland leading for over half of the tournament, from his late Friday charge through his memorable back nine Sunday to win his first major, also helped.

Obviously I’m thrilled with Woodland’s win. It has certainly fueled my rediscovery of golf that he is one of the most talented players on the tour. It’s nice that he has a major win to elevate his status from just another guy with talent in a sport that is filled with those guys. His round Sunday was filled with some nervous moments. At times his game off the tee resembled mine: no idea what direction it might go. But, unlike a guy he is often compared to, Dustin Johnson, he found a way to recover from every mistake, or at least limit the damage. Along the way he hit two shots that will go down in US Open history, and be shown each time the championship comes back to Pebble Beach.

His three wood from the fairway on 14 had people Tweeting the Sam Cassell Big Balls GIF. That was just an amazing shot, up the hill, over a bunker, into a tight pin location, as his wheels were getting a little wobbly. That birdie tuned a one-shot lead into a two-shot cushion, largely eliminating Justin Rose and making it very tough for Brooks Koepka to have a chance.

And his chip off the green on 17, which he nearly holed, came after one of his worst shots of the day, an absolutely flubbed iron off the tee that came up approximately 175 yards short of the pin. Yet he calmly clipped it, without taking a divot, and left himself with a couple feet for a gutsy par. On the No Laying Up message board, someone posted that the average golfer attempting that shot would have hit the ball into the ocean or taken a huge crater out of the green. Or both.


And then Woodland closed in style, drilling a 30-feet birdie on 18 after three shots that were almost too safe coming up the fairway.

His win was made more impressive by the run that Brooks Koepka made at him. The two-time defending champion, and winner of the last two PGA titles, birdied four of his first five holes which made it feel inevitable that the best golfer in the sport would catch and pass him no matter what Gary did. It felt like the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January, where Woodland entered the final round with a lead, shot a terrific 68 – one of only two rounds in the 60s – and yet still lost because Xander Schauffele dropped a course-record 62 on him. Sunday Brooks was going low and there was nothing Woodland could do about it.

Until we had that crazy 30–45 minutes where all of the contenders kept fucking up. Koepka would hit it into the rough. Woodland found sand on the right. Rose found sand on the left. Repeat. It was a comedy of errors as all three men seemed to wilt under pressure. As he did all weekend, Woodland found a way to make pars out of bogeys, and limit his bogeys to single shots lost rather than multiples. It was just enough to keep Koepka from ever catching him.

Good, entertaining golf all around. Although I do love the bloody US Opens where no one can break par and all the players are complaining about how unfair the conditions are.

I admit that if Woodland was not a Kansan and a Jayhawk, I would have been pulling hard for Koepka and history. Woodland is kind of the classic boring golfer. He has a huge game, but never shows much emotion. Hell, other than raising his arms and giving a fist pump after his final putt dropped, he still didn’t look a guy who had just won his first major. I think I’d be pissing myself where he remained cool and blank. But fact is he has a Jayhawk on his bag, comes from my home state, and hasn’t seemed to say or do anything super dumb, so I’m on board with him.

I’ve learned that having takes about golf means you need to have takes about the coverage. Fox did much, much better than CBS would have done and outpaced NBC’s efforts as well. Thursday and Friday were absolutely tremendous, exactly the way golf should be covered. Coverage of a wide range of golfers, reduced commercial breaks, some real quality analysis, not too many fluff pieces. Saturday and Sunday skewed more toward traditional coverage, but they still did a better job than CBS or NBC would have done. They’ve come a long way from the first couple years they had the US Open when it seemed like no one had any idea what they were doing.

Some quick words about the NBA Finals.

L is funny. She has favorite sports teams, but she can’t watch them play. Or at least not for very long. Whether it’s the US Women’s soccer team, the Royals, or the Warriors, she’ll sit down to watch a game with me, get antsy, and quickly give up, telling me, “Will you let me know who wins?” The funny thing is when I tell her one of her teams loses, she gets all frustrated. So she was very frustrated as the Raptors and the Hoops Gods defeated the Warriors.

Yeah, I said it. All props to the Raptors for winning a title I don’t think anyone gave them a chance to win. But that was clearly Hoops Gods in action. How else do you explain Kevin Durant getting hurt not once, but twice? If he plays and is healthy the entire series, the Warriors win in five or six. How else do you explain Klay Thompson, who was playing the best basketball of his life, blowing out his ACL on a fairly innocuous play in an elimination game? The Hoops Gods were either sick of the Warriors or punishing them for hubris. I’m pretty sure if game six had gone to OT Draymond Green would have gotten another T so that he would have been suspended for game seven. And if game seven was close, 100% that Steph would have gotten hurt. The Warriors were flat not winning.

So L was bummed and the Dubs’ dynasty likely comes to an end. It’s pretty crazy that they were arguably the greatest block in NBA history and a bad calf muscle away from winning five straight titles. That really shouldn’t happen in the modern NBA.

Friday Playlist

Back at it after a week off.

“Call Me Snowflake” – Middle Kids. MK’s new EP came out a couple weeks back. I don’t know why I was surprised, but it is really, really good. I guess I figured since they had released a couple solid singles from it in advance, there wouldn’t be much more to it. But turns out that it is fantastic front-to-back. Proving they are as good as anyone making music at the moment. I like the out-of-nowhere, mid-90s vibe in the middle and end of this song.

“Room 13” – Jesse Malin. Malin worked with Lucinda Williams on his upcoming album. There’s a strong Ryan Adams vide to this song. So hopefully Malin doesn’t have a creepy history with women so I can listen to the album.

“Calm Down” – Pete Yorn. It’s been awhile since Pete Yorn has given us any new music. It’s been even longer since he hewed as closely to the sounds that made him a star as he does here. I approve.

“You Haven’t Done Nothin’” – Stevie Wonder. So I knew this song; as I’ve shared many times before Stevie was one of my mom’s very favorites, and our house was filled with his music during his epic run in the early-to-mid 70s. But until I read Tom Breihan’s breakdown of it in his The Number Ones series this week, I didn’t know the song. And, whooo boy, it’s a scorcher when you get into the lyrics! Even better, a song aimed at Richard Nixon seems perfect for the summer of 2019. More importantly, the song inspired me to spend some time with Stevie’s golden era albums over the next few weeks. I listened to Fulfillingness’ First Finale the other night. It isn’t loaded with classics, but it does have that uniquely Stevie vibe that set him apart. All sorts of bits from African and Latin music, jazz, and traditional American soul mixed up into a blend that no one else ever replicated. We throw the phrase “musical genius” around a lot. But Stevie was definitely worthy of the label. 

“Hypersonic Missiles” – Sam Fender. A brother-in-music sent this to me a few weeks back. He sends me several songs a week, often in moments when I can’t listen to them, so occasionally I don’t get to them. It took me a few days to go back and give this one a try. But, man, I was glad when I did. And slowly over the past couple weeks, this has grown into one of my favorite songs of the first half of 2019. Fender is just a young pup – he just turned 23 – but he’s already won great critical acclaim back in the UK. This song shows immense promise. It begins sounding about as British as you can sound. Then comes that hooky chorus that gets into your head. Finally, out of the leftest of left field, comes that big, Clarence Clemons-sounding sax followed by a Tunnel of Love-era Springsteen-like guitar line that just blew me away. Add lyrics that are extremely timely – they are based on a nearly indefensible weapon the Russians may be developing – and you’ve got a damn-near perfect song.

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